My Letter To Every Girl Who Struggles With Food
As someone who used to be a dancer, I can tell you that there used to be humongous pressure on us to look a specific way and to be able to fit into specific costumes. This is understandable to a certain extent for someone with a performance background. There is a need to ensure our stage performances look cohesive, and for that to happen we all have to adhere to a standardized image. But that doesn’t make it right. More and more people are bringing awareness to the fact that there are many different body types. Now, I’m happy to see the diversity in the performing arts being accepted and celebrated more.
But that’s not my point here. My point is that I know for a fact that many people still struggle with food and how it affects our looks. The fact of the matter is that we still place a lot of importance on how ‘skinny’ or ‘right’ someone has to look. Food is seen as the ‘enemy’ because it makes us ‘fat’–and that is exactly the mindset I wish to change, especially as someone who used to be terrified of eating carbohydrates and cry at the idea of eating out or going with friends on spontaneous road trips for food. The same girl who meticulously obsessed over food so I don’t eat over 1200 calories a day, now happily orders a carbonara at a restaurant. However, this change didn’t happen overnight.
Getting to this point of being comfortable in my skin, of being proud of what I look like, and of eating without guilt nibbling away at my insides was not easy. I had to practice and train my mind to think differently. I focused on these things:
Food Broadens Your Horizons.
As someone who used to struggle with a bad relationship with food bordering on an eating disorder, I’m here to tell you this. An eating disorder is not just anorexia or bulimia, or ‘you look too thin’. It is everyone struggling with how they view food and their relationship with it.
To me, new food was scary. Anything new is anything which I don’t know the calories of. This belief ruined my social life and my relationship with my family. It also made me very anxious every time I have to eat ‘unknown food’. Since then, I’ve learned to see food as an adventure, especially in these times where we can’t travel or go to many new places. My taste buds can bring me to a whole new world and broaden my horizons!
Food Is Fuel.
The best thing I did to help my mindset recover from its default mode of ‘food is evil’ is joining a sport that I really, truly enjoy. For me, the biggest wake-up call was my inability to perform to the level I wished to perform. Simply because I decided to skip my lunch that day or not eat carbohydrates to make sure my calories that day did not surpass 1,200, or 1,500, or whatever number it is that was said to be ‘correct’ by the mass media. No two bodies are alike. Therefore, there is no right or wrong number to eat by. There is also no such thing as ‘allowed’ and ‘off limits’ food.
Food is food, and food is fuel! I need to eat enough to excel at the sport of my choice. Eating ensures I have the ability to think with a clear head. I can do exercises without feeling winded and have enough energy to actually pull off and excel at the activity. I can do all this without tiring way ahead of time if I feed my body well.
Our self-worth is not and should never be tied to how little you can eat, how much you weigh, or whatever number it is you’re obsessed with. Be it calories, the number on the weighing scale or the measuring tape, it does not define you. Your body and self-worth are worth more than your aunty’s comments about your weight over a family dinner. Celebrate your body, not hate it.
Look at what your body can do! It keeps you alive. It breathes. On top of that, it has an inbuilt mechanism to tell you when you feel hungry and should eat, and when you feel full and enough is enough. Listen to what it tells you, understand it, and trust it. Feed your body what it needs–not what society says you should feed. No one knows your body better than you. Each body is different, and everyone is different.
I’m not going to lie, recovering from an eating disorder is not an overnight process. Yes, it will be hard. It will be difficult, and it is an uphill battle. But disordered eating will not control your life. Your life is worth more than how many calories you have on a plate, and how many bites you can take out of a meal. Do not be afraid to ask those closest to you for support on the journey. Having someone to eat with you brings a lot more enjoyment to a meal if you struggle with eating. And I promise you, in the end, it’ll be worth it.
A much stronger person <3